This seems to be a common assessment at the minute, but it’s a bit unfair. They’re more polarised, polarised England – steady upper order batting and then the three dementos at five, six and seven.
Admittedly, two of the dementos – Morgan and Buttler – have mostly failed in this tournament, but no-one has hit more sixes than Ravi Bopara. Add James Anderson’s wicket-taking and England are a reasonably watchable side providing you miss the first half of their innings.
There seems to be some debate as to whether Graeme Swann is actually injured or whether it’s just a face-saving excuse for dropping him. If it’s the latter, a dry Oval pitch might give rise to rapid rehabilitation. Let’s see if both he and Tredwell play.
If we’re evaluating boring teams, South Africa surely score quite well. Take out Amla and De Villiers and the batting seems to lack something, but not as much as the bowling lacks should Steyn be deemed unfit to play.
If you’re a neutral, look at it this way: should England win, the commentators will have more to talk about during the final’s long rain delays than if South Africa were to get through.
South Africa are supposed to be playing the Windies today, then India play Pakistan before England play New Zealand. However, we’re away for the weekend with no plans to use the internet, so you’re going to have to fill in the gaps yourselves in the comments section.
We’re not really in the habit of predicting things because we always anticipate being wrong and if you don’t trust your own predictions, why should anyone else? However, if pushed to commit to some sort of opinion, we’d say South Africa’s bowling line-up appears to have been put together for Chris Gayle’s benefit, so maybe something will happen there should the rain relent.
As for the second match, we’ve been backing India in this tournament and so should probably stick with that. It’s a bizarre match though with a great batting line-up and mediocre bowling line-up pitted against a shoddy batting line-up and fantastic bowling line-up. Only one thing’s for certain: one team will reveal themselves as being better than the other one (unless the match is rained off).
England v New Zealand? We’re pretty confident that one will be a washout. It’s just the way these things work.
Largely because Pakistan never actually got round to chasing the target. Instead, the batsmen just sort of stood there and hoped that it would go away on its own.
If we’d have bothered writing a Champions Trophy preview, we might have had India down as fair weather favourites. It’s as much the lack of alternatives as anything else.
India have their weaknesses, but despite the absence of some extraordinarily familiar faces they’re experienced and they play to their strengths. There may have been players paid to underperform during the IPL, but the India cricket team is overpaid to perform. They will make runs and they won’t worry too much when the opposition do.
Shorn of Dale Steyn – and a side strain can keep a fast bowler out for a while – South Africa look like a dilute version of India. They have a few explosive batsmen, but their bowling attack is clogged up with generic seam. They also need to beat both Pakistan and the West Indies now.
That’s right. One match in and already a major team is on the brink. In fact, there is a very slim chance South Africa could win those two matches and still go out if other results don’t go their way.
Make no mistake, the Champions Trophy is okay.
That is a deeply unsatisfactory title and we’ll tell you why – fire and ice are not equal.
No matter how dangerous ice can be, fire is just fundamentally scarier. Talk about fire and it conjures images of blazing infernos. Talk about ice and you think of slipping over and bruising your coccyx.
For the purposes of this article, imagine fire and ice are equally intimidatory because what we’re trying to convey is that there’s more than one way to reprimand a cat (we’ve decided to update that idiom for a modern world which has greater respect for animals).
Test cricket is particularly absorbing when teams with contrasting approaches are pitted against each other. It’s partly a test of which team is the better, but it also allows us to scrutinise and evaluate different methodologies.
The South African approach is pretty obvious. Their fast bowlers exploit the new ball; their batsmen play sensibly. This is an incredibly effective gameplan in their home conditions, but in the second Test against Pakistan, we are seeing it pitted against something rather different.
The Pakistan approach is far less reliant on the new ball. Their most threatening bowlers are spinners, but on top of that their fast bowlers are generally more adept at reverse swing than the conventional kind.
This Pakistani approach to bowling alters the rhythm of the match and the South African innings will doubtless follow a different pattern to Pakistan’s. They may well end up 338 all out as well, but they’ll have arrived at that destination via different roads.
Or perhaps they’ll score far more than 338. Fire melts ice, after all.